A North Carolina town has nixed Rachel Dolezal from its Martin Luther King Jr. Dreamfest next month, saying her scheduled appearance would “take away from the goals” of the event.
Charming Cary, North Carolina, had originally booked Dolezal to speak on a panel about racial identity and race relations. The former president of the Spokane, WA NAACP chapter, Dolezal drew nationwide controversy after news broke that she was born to white parents. She says she identifies as black.
Dreamfest organizers originally said they had chosen Dolezal because she had “been depicted as a major villain through media because of her racial identity, yet she didn’t steal from anybody. She didn’t murder anybody. She didn’t rob anybody. She only had an affinity for a group of people, and she served her community well.”
But local backlash quickly built around Dolezal’s appearance, with eight clergy decrying her “sensationalized presence” in a letter and saying that her participation would “not honor the stories, voices, and experiences of the people for whom the Rev. King gave his life.”
The Dreamfest’s organizers quietly removed Dolezal from the scheduled panel in mid-December.
Doug McRainey, Cary’s parks, recreation and cultural resources director, told Heat Street the town supports this decision.
“While we were hopeful that her being part of a panel discussion of discrimination could be meaningful, we heard concerns from pastors and citizens that her presence would result in a negative notoriety that would overshadow all of the good Dreamfest is set to deliver – something no one wanted to see happen,” McRainey said.
Through her publicist, Dolezal declined to comment.